Nishikawa squeezed out of gold at Westerns

The race was so close it came down to a final lunge towards the finish line. Only a fraction of a second separated gold from silver.

The race was so close it came down to a final lunge towards the finish line.

Only a fraction of a second separated gold from silver.

Whitehorse skier Graham Nishikawa had to settle with silver in the senior men’s division of the Western Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships in Kelowna over the weekend, outpaced by 0.3 seconds in the final 15-kilometre pursuit.

“Honestly, it was a bit frustrating,” said Nishikawa. “It was a good battle – he’s a good friend on mine – but I came up short in the sprint (to the finish line).”

Nishikawa opened the mini-tour event – a new race format adopted by Cross-Country Canada this season – finishing fourth in the sprint and third four-kilometre classic. He then started the final race 15 seconds behind the leader, Drew Goldsack, from the Rocky Mountain Racers club, who went on to win gold by a hair.

“I was feeling really strong and trying to make attacks, trying to drop the other skier but he managed to stay on,” said Nishikawa. “It was really tactical because it was snowing a lot, so the conditions weren’t really good.

“Then in the final stretch, he out-lunged me.”

Despite the silver, Nishikawa remains at the top of the leader’s board for the NorAm circuit, the finals of which are being held this weekend in Ottawa. If Nishikawa manages to hold on to his number one spot, not necessarily needing to finish first, he will automatically qualify to represent Canada at the World Cup circuit in Europe this spring.

“It’s still a mini-tour, but it ends with a 30-kilometre classic. That’s a better event for me, so I like my chances,” said Nishikawa of this weekend’s mini-tour. “But like what happened on Sunday, you can’t really control the conditions. A lot can happen tactically, but if I stay healthy and keep skiing well, I like my chances.”

Nishikawa wasn’t the only Yukoner to take in hardware at the Games. Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty placed second over her first two races – a skate sprint and a 2.7-kilometre classic – finishing third overall in the final 10-kilometre skate race of the junior female division.

“I thought it was a good weekend for me,” said Beatty. “I was pretty consistent, so that was good.

“There were interesting conditions; the last day it snowed a lot and the day before it was really warm. So it was good to ski in conditions we don’t really get in Whitehorse.”

Beatty, and nine other Yukoners, including Nishikawa’s sister Emily, will be representing the Yukon at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax during the second week of competition.

“This past weekend was good preparation for the Canada Games – to get some racing in,” said Beatty.

Six other Yukoners joined Nishikawa and Beatty in Kelowna.

Jeff Wood, a Team Yukon alternate for the Canada Games, missed his final race in the junior male category, but took 16th in the sprint and 22nd in the prologue.

Holly Bull, another Team Yukon alternate, in the junior girls’ division, was 12th in the sprint and 13th in the following two races. In the junior boys’, Fabian Brook was 14th, 10th and 15th while teammate Izak Baril-Blouin was 25th, 18th and 18th.

For the juvenile divisions, Trevor Bray was 15th, 11th and 15th while Nahanni Sagar missed the sprint but was 33rd and 27th in the remaining races on the girls’ side. (Note: junior and juvenile divisions did not operate in the mini-tour format.)

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